As with nature, urban landscapes go through seasons of their own, just not as quickly or on as precise a schedule. Changes to the urban environment, both subtle and dramatic, keep us going back to the same locations time and time again, always with different results.
Any time we shoot outdoors, nature’s seasons factor into what we’re doing; the four seasons offer distinctly different looks, but sometimes those changes are not as obvious in an urban environment. If there are no trees on a street, we don’t see whether leaves have fallen or are beginning to bud. Snow is a rather obvious clue, but a sunny day with no people on the street to give us a hint might just as easily be July as December. Seasons take on a different feel when one is in the city.
Cities also go through seasons of their own, from growth to stability to decay and rebirth. Typically, we see those changes at the neighborhood level though occasionally, such as with Detroit, whole city transformations can be obvious. No city wants to be labeled as boring and just the natural wear and tear of use, not to mention the coming and going of business as economies fluctuate, factor into visible changes in the urban environment. While those changes rarely happen within a three-month cycle, thank goodness, they do happen with enough frequency to give photographers different and often unique settings that can be fun to capture.
Unfortunately, not every seasonal change to an area is planned or positive. When fire takes out a dominant building the entire neighborhood feels the pain and the results are surprisingly visual. Should crime overtake an area, or should a geographically specific economic program end, a once-thriving community may see itself thrust into an unwanted period of winter. New construction might be seen as the “spring planting” season in the urban environment, but street-level disruption might cause traffic congestion and noise that present a challenge.
This week marks ten years since I first moved to and began exploring Indianapolis. Visual changes in the city are dramatic to the point that pictures I took then are practically obsolete, taking on a strange “vintage” feel to them. Every year I look around and find reasons to re-visit places that I’ve photographed before, knowing that I’ll get very different results. Urban seasons are one of the things that make photographing the inner-city outdoors fun and exciting. Look around you and be amazed at the changes.